As anticipation for the new library building grows, one aspect of the library remains rooted in the past: the Greenslade Special Collection and Archives. The archives are crucial in documenting Kenyon’s past and aiding with research. This important resource would not be available without the work of the College’s two archivists: Special Collections Librarian Elizabeth Williams-Clymer and College Archivist Abigail Tayse.
The archives are split into two separate categories that are housed together: the Special Collections and the Archives. Williams-Clymer oversees the Special Collections, which contain mostly printed materials considered rare or valuable enough to require some restrictions and precautions for use — these do not necessarily relate to Kenyon College.
After getting a bachelor’s degree in history from Kent State, William-Clymer participated in the National Civilian Community Corps, an AmeriCorps program, in which she travelled around the country for service projects. During her travels, she was always drawn to the local libraries she worked with. “I found I loved being in a library and wanted to work in one so I went on to graduate school to earn my MLIS [Masters of Library and Information Sciences],” she wrote in an email to the Collegian. “My position at Kenyon blends my love for history and libraries.”
On a daily basis, Williams-Clymers works with the Collections’ wide range of resources, from texts by William Butler Yeats to photos and letters remembering the Holocaust. The oldest item is a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible dating back to the mid-15th century. One of Williams-Clymer’s personal favorites is a scrapbook that was donated to Kenyon in the 1930s with a collection of signatures from all United States presidents; it has since accrued those of all but the three most recent presidents.
Tayse manages the other half of the collection, the Archives, which focus on Kenyon’s history. While at college, Tayse learned she could work in a library. “I didn’t really realize it was an actual job I could have until then,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian. “After researching the profession, I knew I was more interested in the historic materials in archives and museums than a more traditional librarian role.” Tayse also earned a MLIS, specializing in archives, records management and preservation.
Tayse’s time in the Archives is spent organizing and managing resources concerning Kenyon’s past. She helps researchers study the Collegian’s archives, which include every issue of the paper, dating back to 1857. Other resources include photographs of the College’s past, records from the Kenyon Review and student honors theses. There is even a Valentine that one of the 19th-century Kenyon presidents made for his wife which includes a lock of hair — one of Tayse’s personal favorites.
Understanding the importance of preserving the past and present, Tayse and Williams-Clymer are currently working on Archiving Kenyon’s COVID-19 Story. The project aims to create a digital primary source for the community to later look back on by including photos, videos and other documents submitted by members of the Kenyon community remembering the pandemic.
By looking after Kenyon’s Archives and Special Collections, Williams-Clymer and Tayse have organized an important resource for Kenyon by keeping the past accessible.
To contribute either to Archiving Kenyon’s COVID-19 Story or to the presidential signature collection, the Archives and Special Collections can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.